Witness Radio Milestones
Oil palm growing: New twist as Buvuma residents disown group over compensation
Residents of Nkuusi Village, Busamuza Sub County in Buikwe District meeting VODP officials to sort out their compensation woes recently. PHOTO BY DENNIS SSEBWAMI.
BUVUMA. The controversy surrounding compensation of residents who were displaced by the oil palm project on Buvuma Islands in Lake Victoria has taken a new twist with a section of residents disowning their colleagues who claim that their properties were undervalued.
The group of 205 residents (led by Mr Sefu Buluuba) from eight villages in the sub-counties of Busamuzi and Buwooya and Buvuma Town Council, said they are satisfied with the compensation packages received from government and wondered why their colleagues included their names on the list of those complaining.
“We really don’t know the intentions of people who included our names on the list of those who claim that their properties were undervalued. On our part, we are contented with the compensation packages we received from government and we have already vacated our land to pave way for the project to kick off,” Mr Buluuba, who has since relocated to Kansansa Village, Busamuza Sub County told Journalists in Buvuma Town on Saturday.
Another complainant, Mr Alex Kiyira, a former resident of Bukwaya Village said he was considering suing those who put his name on the list of those complaining about unfair compensation.
“I was shown the valuation and survey report which I also signed and I am not complaining about the compensation package I got. Whoever included my name on the list of disgruntled residents has his own motives and once I know him, I will drag him to court,” Mr Kiyira, who has since relocated to Buwanguzi Village, said.
The development comes a week after the High Court in Mukono on June 18 dismissed a petition in which five residents in Buvuma Islands had sought an injunction stopping the oil palm project until the case they filed against government complaining about unreasonable compensation and creation of ghost beneficiaries on their land is disposed of.
Mr Rajab Hassan, the chairperson Ssese Village in Buwooya Sub County said he was also surprised that his name appeared on the list of those who petitioned court yet his piece of land was not considered under the oil palm project.
“l was surprised when l got to know that my name appears on the list of residents who are complaining. l decided to rush to court so that l inform the judge that I am not among the complainants, because I am still occupying my Kibanja (a plot of land) and my land lord did not sell off his title to the project managers,” he said.
The Buvuma Oil Palm Project, which was unveiled in 2008, has failed to kick off due to endless land disputes and environmental concerns.
The project, a component of the Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP) which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, is implemented by Oil Palm Uganda Limited, a subsidiary of Bidico Uganda, which manages oil palm plantations on Bugala Islands in Kalangala.
The project targets 10,000 hectares and 6500 will be used by the project and the remaining 3500 hectares will be utilized by out growers.
When contacted, Ms Connie Masaba the VODP project coordinator was upbeat about the development, saying compensation woes had hindered the project on the island.
“We are happy to hear that majority of the residents have started realizing the importance of the project. A handful of them have been confusing others but they cannot stop us from embarking on the project,” She said during a telephone interview yesterday.
Ms Masaba said the process of land acquisition was based on ‘willing buyer willing seller’ principle which applied to both landlords and tenants and no resident was coerced to give away their land.
She explained that they engaged consultants who used valuation rates that are set by district land board and approved by the Chief Government Valuer, to determine the amount to be paid to the tenants for their properties.
She said government has so far spent Shs67 billion on compensation of 54,442 project affected persons (PAPs) and a total of 7,591 hectares have been secured.
“Actually, we are only remaining with 20 residents we are yet to compensate and they will be receiving their money in two months’ time.” she added
Busamuzi Sub County Chairperson, Mr Charles Aisu said some residents who went to court were simply misguided and think government will give them more money.
“Those five residents who went to court are all from my sub county [Busamuzi]. What l know, they just want to delay the project. Four of them got their compensation money two years ago and even vacated the land. They misused the money, and now want to get more, ’’ he said.
Mr Aggrey Wakasi, one of the five petitioners said although the majority of their colleagues had ‘betrayed’ them, they will not relent in their quest to get fair compensation for their land.
“Even if we remain two, we shall pursue our case until we get justice,” he said.
Recently legislators on the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture advised government to swiftly implement the oil palm project, warning that any further delays would give unscrupulous individuals a chance to grab the land earmarked for the project.
The MPs also directed the project manager to quicken the process of compensating the PAPs, who refused to vacate their bibanja (plots) holders, claiming their property was undervalued.
However, they urged the project implementers to ensure that there is no encroachment on the existing forests and wetlands during the implementation of the project.
Buvuma Main Island has about 200 square miles (517km) of land and 26 gazetted forest reserves.
Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.
Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.
RE: COMPLAINT AGAINST UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT OF THE DPC KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT FOR AIDING AND ABETTING LAND GRABBING IN NYAMUTENDE KITWARA PARISH KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT AND CARRYING OUT ILLEGAL ARRESTS AND DETENTION OF INNOCENT RESIDENTS/ BIBANJA OWNERS FOR PROTESTING AGAINST THE ILLEGAL EVICTION FROM THEIR LAND.
We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).
Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.
As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto
Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.
Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.
While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.
Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.
As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.
Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto
On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.
We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.
We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.
The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.
Looking forward to your urgent intervention,
C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru
CC The RDC Kiryandongo District
CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District
CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region
Witness Radio Milestones
The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.
Witness Radio Milestones
Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.
By Witness Radio Team
Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).
“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.
The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions
The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.
During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.
According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.
The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”
Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.
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